Categorized | Procedures, Residency, Study

Studying in Switzerland

Posted on 09 February 2007 by LegalBeagle

Switzerland does not have a national Ministry of Education, in contrast to many other countries: the Swiss cantons have the responsibility for both post-compulsory and compulsory education.

The Confederation (the federal authoritues) co-ordinates recognition of some diplomas and is in charge of professional training, apprenticeships, the specialiszed ‘Hautes Écoles’, and of Federal Institutes of Technology.

Only the ‘maturité’ diploma allows direct access to universities and polytechnics; the other two types of diploma enable entry to specialized ‘Hautes Écoles’ (artistic, technical, teaching, economic, and health and social sciences courses) comparable to IUTs in France or the Fachochschulen in Germany.

There are basically two kinds of university institution: cantonal supported universities and federal institutes of technology, supported by the Confederation. There are additionally institutions that offer professional options in technical, management, social services, health, and fine or applied arts. The academic year in Switzerland runs from October to June and it is advisable to begin administrative procedures before May of the year in which you would like begin study.

Most Swiss schools have adopted the Bologna Agreement recommendations. Studies are divided into Bachelors cycles (180 credits) and Master’s cycles (90 or 120 credits). The Swiss universities now mainly use the international credit system set by ECTS. Over the years, many partnerships have devleoped between universities, schools polytechnics and specialised schools. To start a master’s degree, students must have completed a bachelor’s degree in the same subject area. In rare circumstances, one can change the subject area between the bachelor’s and master’s degree. To pursue a doctorate in Switzerland, the minimum qualification required is a master’s degree.

The cost of study in Swiss universities is relatively low in international terms and Swiss universities and polytechnics welcome large numbers of international students, especially in French-speaking Switzerland; though in some institutions for advanced professional studies, access for international students may be restricted.

Postgraduate programs exist in many federal institutes of technology. Specialist medical training is handled by the Federation of Swiss Doctors (FMH), which awards diplomas. Doctoral degrees are normally awarded for in-depth, original research and doctoral students don’t usually take courses, but rather spend their time in research. In the scientific branches, they usually work as research assistants, allowing them to be self-funding. One must also keep in mind that there are three linguistic regions of Switzerland: French, German and Italian. In most universities language courses are also offered. And many master’s degrees — particularly in engineering or economics– can be taken in English. There are even certain programs taught exclusively through English — this is perhaps becoming a trend in Switzerland.

The costs of study vary by programme. They range from 1,000 to 20,000 Swiss francs per year, but are usually charged at the lower end of that range. Further, it is rare for international students to pay more than Swiss students. The Swiss have not, to date, distinguished between different categories of international students (EU, EEA or others), though this may change with the increasing integration with the European Union. EU nationals (this does not include nationals of the new EU member states) do not need a visa to study in Switzerland. Students are required to register with the cantonal authorities, showing proof of health insurance, sufficient financial resources and proof of registration at a recognised educational establishment.

One should take in to account living expenses –independent of study fees — to live independently in Switzerland — which one may estimate at roughly CHF2,000 per month, for a modest tudent lifestyle.
Switzerland participates in various European Exchange Programmes (ERASMUS, SOCRATES, Leonardo, Unica, etc), and it’s possible to find support for one’s studies through one of these programs. Swiss universities do not have campus-based accommodation, but they all have services to help students find rooms in student houses or in private homes. The cost of student accommodation varies between CHF400 and CHF1000 per month. Foreign students in Switzerland normally have the right to work 20 hours a week, though the workload of postgraduate programmes usually restricts work activity.

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